And the winners are…

The winners of the first Better Places National Awards were announced at a ceremony in Manchester on 3 July.

We were searching for projects and programmes that demonstrated innovation and a commitment to inclusive approaches – you didn’t disappoint.

Here’s a rundown of the winners and those who made the shortlist in our four categories: private sector, social enterprise, public sector and voluntary & community sector.


WINNER – Thinktastic Ambitions, Enterprising Education: Thinktastic
Thinktastic Ambitions developed a new model of enterprise education with primary schools in east central Scotland.

Run by Edinburgh firm Thinktastic, through creative sessions such as games and drama it helps children think differently about the future and develop creativity and enterprising attitudes. Since launching the project with Prestonfield Primary School in Edinburgh (pictured left), Thinktastic has gone on to use the model with more than 600 students and 70 teachers in 18 schools.

The overriding aim is to encourage a different approach and attitude to enterprise. As Thintastic explains in its entry: ‘We have taken part in 15 events across Lothian, creating enterprise days where schools come together to learn not so much about enterprising businesses (the traditional model of getting across the message of enterprise), but about enterprising attitudes and creativity.

‘In other words, we have worked with schools to formulate the kind of thinking required, helping youngsters to discover this thinking for themselves rather than presenting them with some model of enterprising education.’

Prestonfield Primary School hopes its ongoing parliamentary project – which led on from its enterprise work with Thinktastic – will eventually become the standard approach to citizenship education.

The judges said: ‘When times are hard it’s tempting to only focus on the here and now, effectively firefighting in the face of recession. That’s why it’s vital we also highlight projects like this that recognise the need to look to the future and inspire the next generation to do things differently.’



St Andrew’s Square, Woodcock Street, Hull: Keepmoat
St Andrew’s Square is a housing development in west Hull in an area once known as ‘Little Beirut’. Keepmoat has built the first homes in the area for 25 years and the scheme was developed via close engagement with the community.
Three-quarters of homes on Woodcock Street were either empty or abandoned before the project was launched and it is now the firm’s fastest selling scheme in the country despite the recession. Training and jobs for local people were at the heart of development proposals, as well as the involvement of local schools. Community engagement led to a lower density development than first proposed and better sized gardens and more off street parking. Keepmoat and its partners, Hull Council and Places for People, now see the development as key to supporting the wider regeneration of the area.
Details: David Carmichael, 01302 341 005

Outset Bristol and Outset Torbay: YTKO
Outset Bristol, run by YTKO and funded by Bristol Council and the European Regional Development Fund, delivers intensive start-up support and enterprise coaching for unemployed people, helping people from groups that are under-represented in enterprise to move into self-employment. So far women have made up 64% of business start-ups through the programme, compared to 27% of the self-employed population in the UK. In the last 18 months 121 new businesses have been launched, creating 146 new jobs. Outset Torbay runs along similar lines to Outset Bristol and was also set up by YTKO. Both tailor their offering to clients’ needs, and deliver programme at the grassroots level in plain language to help those who may never have considered self-employment before. Since launching in October 2010 Outset Torbay has supported 85 new businesses, creating 97 jobs. Both projects aim to reach out to those furthest from the labour market by offering an alternative to employment and unemployment. In Outset Torbay’s case, some 34% of clients are long-term unemployed, almost a quarter are over 50 and more than half are women. The emphasis is on creating tailored support to help people into self-employment that can be sustained.
Details: /


WINNER – We All Do Good Things: People United
Launched in 2009, We All Do Good Things in Herne Bay, Kent collected stories of kindness and love from the local community. Artists worked across the community to uncover and celebrate positive stories from bingo halls, schools, residential homes and hairdressing salons.

The project culminated in an exhibition and giant picnic for the community attracting more than 1,000 local people. Overall, the project involved around a sixth of the town’s population.

A research team at the University of Kent is now analysing its wider impact and We All Do Good Things has already inspired similar projects elsewhere. Its success hasn’t gone unnoticed in government. David Anderson, cohesion guidance and cross-government liaison at the Department for Communities and Local Government, says of the initiative:

‘Every now and again I hear about a local project which is both exceptional and inspiring, making me want to tell others about it. The work that People United have done falls into that category.

‘It shows how a positive focus on what people have in common can help tackle difficult social issues. And like all great ideas, it is simple enough for others to copy, but also highly original.’

The judges said: ‘The exciting thing about this initiative is that while it’s already demonstrated success, it’s also acting as a catalyst – and it can clearly be replicated elsewhere.’



Portland Works/The Drawing Shed: Studio Polpo
Studio Polpo is an architectural social enterprise based in Sheffield focused on the co-creation of projects with the local community. These include The Drawing Shed, a mobile shed that encouraged creative activities in deprived areas, and Portland Works (pictured), which brought together local partners to save historic workshops from redevelopment. On the latter Studio Polpo says: ‘Everything we have done has been working towards the development and implementation of a framework for collective production and action where engaged scholarship, community activism and community economic development converged to Save Portland Works from speculative redevelopment.’
Details: and

The Bling Cafe @ Flooks: Llamau
The Bling Café @ Flooks is a cyber café based in Merthyr Tydfil set up by charity Llamau and run as a social enterprise by young homeless people, providing them with work experience – boosting their confidence and offering training opportunities in the process. It secured £60,000 from the lottery last year and is part of a wider project to create a training centre and provide supported accommodation for the homeless.

A Better Blackheath: Black Country Housing Group
A Better Blackheath is a partnership hub created by the Black Country Housing Group (BCHG) in a small deprived town in Sandwell. Working closely with local organisations it has promoted volunteering in the new local library, helped local groups and supported the church in its expansion plans. At the heart of the initiative is the area’s new library (pictured, left). Local residents were concerned that although the facility would attract more visitors to the town, Blackheath wasn’t ready to capitalise on the opportunities this could create. BCHG made its offices available to the community to hold meetings and staff have worked with local groups to identify where there are gaps in services. As a result of this new network, a playgroup that faced leaving the area after being served notice by its landlord was helped to find a new base in Blackheath at a sheltered housing complex. This in turn has brought different generations together, breaking down barriers in the process.

Pride of Northumbria/The Ambler/Amble GPX: Amble Development Trust
Pride of Northumbria was set up in 2009 by Amble Development Trust. The trust purchased a local shop as a base to bring creative arts and enterprises to the high street in Amble and promote local produce. It plans to use the upper floors for affordable housing. It is also nominated for setting up Amble GPX, a strategy to develop digital enterprise using an online intreractive game created by local people, and The Ambler, a free community paper for the town. The Ambler has been running for ten years and is run by a part-time worker and a team of volunteers. It aims to ‘inform, discuss, campaign and raise awareness of projects and issues which may impact on local residents’. One section – Artograffi – is produced by a group of young people aged nine years upwards, who are interested in having their say and developing journalism, layout and photography skills.

SOAR Works: Southey and Owlerton Area Regeneration
SOAR Works is a community-run enterprise centre providing low-cost start-up offices, workshops and studios in a deprived area of Sheffield. The scheme, built on a former city council works depot, was developed by Southey and Owlerton Area Regeneration (SOAR), a community-led regeneration partnership, using funding from partners including Sheffield Council via the local enterprise growth initiative, Yorkshire Forward via European Regional Development Fund, the Homes and Communities Agency and Communitybuilders. It opened last year and now hosts 30 enterprises as well as providing support and training – all in a Breeam ‘excellent’ rated building. Architect David Saxby, who nominated SOAR Works, says of the organsiation behind it: ‘If there was an award for simply being committed to make a place in general so much better, rather than focused on any particular project, I would be nominating SOAR.’


WINNER – Bargoed Library: Caerphilly Council and United Welsh
Bargoed Library is part of the ‘Big Idea’ for Bargoed, a deprived town in the South Wales Valleys. With the town’s library due to be demolished to make way for a new retail development, the local council and partners worked with the Hanbury Baptist Chapel – a dilapidated building in the town centre – to turn it into a state-of-the-art education and community hub while retaining its function as a worship space. The new library has seen footfall rise by 136% since opening last November and is now home to a Customer First Centre, a social enterprise cafe and a family history resource centre. Nominating Bargoed Library, senior manager for library services Gareth Evans says: ‘The project has had a significant impact and will play a key role in supporting the long-term sustainability of the town centre. Breathing new life into a dilapidated building has improved the town centre environment and will further support its economic viability through increased footfall. ‘The project provides an accessible location for what is a very “social” facility, improving access to education and training, customer services and simply creating a venue within the town centre to meet and socialise.’

The judges said: ‘Sometimes places need a project that not only serves its own purpose admirably but also sends out a positive message to all who live there – a demonstration that your town deserves the best. This particular scheme does all that and more.’

Tim Ahrensbach, one of the judges, added: ‘The birth and decline of civic institutions can often have a detrimental effect on our communities. Bargoed Library exemplified how the creative collaboration between two institutions at different life stages can lead to unexpected and amazing new outcomes to the benefit of the entire community.’



Cowgate Strategy: Newcastle Council
The Cowgate Strategy brought together multiple local partners led by Newcastle Council to work together to tackle the problems of the Cowgate estate, the most deprived neighbourhood in Newcastle upon Tyne. Crime has fallen by 50%, fly tipping has stopped, void housing has been brought back into use and community cohesion has improved significantly. While it still has significant challenges, the estate is in demand and is attracting investment. The approach adopted in Cowgate is now being used in other neighbourhoods of the city by the council and its partners. The photo shows lanterns made by local children and cows made by adults for bonfire night last year which were paraded around the estate.

Pontypool Park Friends: Torfaen Council
Pontypool Park Friends (PPF) group in Pontypool, South Wales has undertaken numerous activities since it was set up in 2008 and then officially constituted a year ago – from litter picks to dry stone walling. Supported by Torfaen Council, it has worked closely with local partners and its success has led to the creation of other park ‘friends’ groups across the borough. The park is immediately adjacent to the town centre and members of PPF have set about improving the park’s appearance and reducing antisocial behaviour, working with a wide range of organisations to ‘spread the message’. PPF has taken an inclusive approach to maintaining the park, attracting new members (membership has increased ten-fold in five years) and encouraging other organisations to join in.

Cornwall Works: Inclusion Cornwall (hosted by Cornwall Council) and Jobcentre Plus
Cornwall Works is an example of partnership working to link up services in rural areas. Established by Jobcentre Plus and Cornwall Council, it brings together local projects and programmes to create a hub that has helped thousands into work or training. Its entry form explains: ‘It is at once a highly strategic approach to big problems and a tactical patchwork of highly individual, occasionally maverick interventions all pulling in the same direction and working at an intimate local level. ‘It brings people, organisations and funding together, to help more people, to trial new services and ways of delivering them, and to ensure that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly make the best use of all the programmes and services available to help everyone achieve their full potential.’ Since launching in 2006 Cornwall Works has helped more than 10,000 people into employment.

Library Lab: Brent Council and Architecture00
Library Lab has turned an under-used space in Willesden Green Library into a free co-working area with a packed programme of workshops to help local people set up their own businesses, write a CV or learn new skills. Led by Architecture00 in partnership with Brent Council, it not only gives would-be entrepreneurs the space to learn and grow but has created a hub for learning and networking, with language exchanges, town team meetings and a pop-up crèche. The town team meetings, hosted by community interest company Meanwhile Space, give local people and business the chance to say what they like and don’t like about the high street and discuss ways to make improvements. A ‘pop up creche’ offers parents free childcare, allowing them to use the Library Lab and other facilities to test out their business ideas, study and look for work.


WINNER – NuFutures for Knowsley: Prescot Oasis
The NuFutures for Knowsley project has worked with some of the area’s most challenging young people to offer them training and apprenticeships. In partnership with Knowsley Housing Trust (KHT), Knowsley Council, schools and many others, Prescot Oasis has created jobs and apprenticeships through a gardening service for vulnerable older tenants. The project has broken down intergenerational barriers, reduced crime and disorder and opened the door to training for young people who would otherwise have remained on the fringes.

Nominating Prescot Oasis for an award, KHT says: ‘The unique way the project has engaged with partners including RSLs and the local authority is a great example of a voluntary and community organisation understanding the community in which it is operating and also the priorities of partners. The combination of being committed to helping the community, having a business idea that could be sold and inspiring young people to turn their lives around has been the major success of this project.’

The judges said: ‘It was a close call in this category but in the end one project struck a chord with all of us. It’s demonstrating the kind of joint action that’s so desperately needed in the current economic climate.’



Four Steps to Starting Your Own Business: Genesis Housing Association
The Four Steps to Starting Your Own Business initiative, run by Genesis Housing Association, is based on the Woodberry Down estate in Hackney and helps equip local residents to set up their own business or social enterprise. Since the initiative launched just over a year ago, 11 new businesses have got off the ground, including four social enterprises, and more than 50 residents have enrolled. As its name suggests, participants are taken through four steps with one to one support, guidance, mentoring and training provided at every stage.Genesis believes it is not only boosting employment, but also serving to empower local people.

Phoenix Park: The Land Trust
Phoenix Park in Thurnscoe is located on a former South Yorkshire colliery. The Land Trust now owns the site and runs it through an endowment which ensures it is managed for community use. The park is used by numerous local groups including Barnsley Youth Group and the Hesley Group, a residential centre for adults with autism. It’s also used by public agencies such as police, youth offending service and fire brigade to run sessions with local young people. The Land Trust believes Phoenix Park has had a tangible impact on everything from the health of residents to community cohesion over the last seven years. It also says there has been a measurable effect on the local economy: ‘Analysis of house prices around Phoenix Park has revealed that since the park was completed in 2005, £50m has been added to the value of houses. ‘This has been calculated using regression analysis of two separate measures. The first included indexing prices of all houses sold, whilst the second method analysed only those houses which had sold before and after remediation of the Park. The change in house prices is statistically significant which means the addition of £50m to house prices can be confidently stated.’

Cheltenham Connect
Wendy Ellyatt wanted to recreate the ‘village’ feel in a large town. After an initial meeting in a pub with fellow residents a membership association was established and Cheltenham Connect was born back in 2009. Since then it has run numerous community events, including a local history project with local primary schools, a major high street renovation and an eco-homes initiative. There are now 450 online members and a some 1,600 connected via an e-newsletter. Cheltenham Connect currently has five strands: the Buy Local Group; the Go Green Group; the Skillspace Group; Community Group; and the Health and Wellbeing Group. Wendy believes the model can be easily replicated, so much so she has set up a community interest company called Connect Local to make that happen. As well as connecting local people of all ages and nurturing community spirit, connect initiatives ‘seek ways of making each community increasingly self-sufficient and resilient in the face of external pressures’, she says.

Ivybridge Community Plan: Ivybridge Town Council
Ivybridge Community Plan was instigated by Ivybridge Town Council and local community groups who were concerned about the effect of new housing in the Devon town and a major supermarket development nearby. The community has engaged with developers to generate a vision for the town that accommodates new homes while ensuring the viability of important community facilities. Supported by the Princes Foundation for Building Community, the plan has engaged local people and given them a genuine say. As it entry states: ‘Until 2011 the town had grown on a piecemeal basis so that the community, social, economic and transport infrastructure had played second fiddle to the housing estates, leaving the town council to try and provide the open spaces and community hub that are essential for a successful, sustainable community.’ Now all that has changed.


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